Mexican vegetable cottage pie


Olive oil – 2tsp
Brown onion – 1 medium, finely chopped
Garlic – 2clove(s), crushed
Mexican Chilli powder – 2tsp
Tomato paste – 1tbs
Canned red kidney beans – 1 can
Canned black beans – 1 can
Canned pinto beans – 1 can
Canned corn kernels – 1 can
Vegetable stock cube – to make 1/2 cup (125ml) vegetable stock
Dried oregano – 1tsp
Orange sweet potato – ~800g, cut into 2cm pieces
Skim milk – 2tbs
Fresh coriander – 2tbs, leaves, to serve
Oil spray – 1 x 3 second spray


  1. Chop sweet potato into 2cm cubes and roast at 180deg for 45-60 minutes or until cooked.
  2. Heat oil in a deep non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Cook onion, stirring, for 5 minutes or until softened. Add garlic, chilli powder and tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until fragrant.
  3. Drain and rinse the corn kernels. Set aside.
  4. Drain the beans, setting aside approx 125ml (1/2 cup) of the Aquafaba (the viscous water) from the black beans and pinto beans.
  5. Mix beans together, set aside 1/3 of the beans and mash with a potato masher.
  6. Add beans, corn kernels, stock, aquafaba, mashed beans and oregano and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until thickened. Transfer to a 1.5 litre (6-cup) capacity ovenproof dish.
  7. Mash sweet potato in a large bowl with milk. Spoon mash over vegetable mixture and lightly spray with oil.
  8. Preheat grill on high. Grill pie for 5 minutes or until light golden. Serve sprinkled with fresh coriander leaves.

Simple Ideas: Competition and Acquisition

Some of my friends call me a socialist (usually conservatives/those hanging out on the right of the political spectrum), and some call me a capitalist (usually progressives/those hanging out on the left). I guess that puts me in the middle. As an entrepreneur and owner of businesses, the fact is that, by virtue of my actions, I’m a capitalist. But that doesn’t mean that I agree with everything in our capitalist economic system, or even most of it. I’m certainly a big supporter of social and environmental consciousness in business – my businesses are B Corporations, we support 1% for the Planet, and I regularly speak on the subject of social and environmental responsibility in business, and take direct action to help try to fix systemic problems. Clearly I believe that capitalism can do a lot better.

One of the ills of our capitalist system is the seemingly inevitable tendency of industries to drift inexorably toward monopolies or oligopolies. I think this is one of the natural “features” of a capitalist system. One of the features is *supposed* to be competition driving efficiencies and reducing costs and passing these reduced costs on to consumers, but this doesn’t always happen. In the quest for efficiencies or other levers to increase profits or yields, companies merge or acquire other companies. Economies of scale, centralisation of administration or other activities, can lead to increased profits or returns on investment, so of course companies will pursue these avenues. It almost goes without saying, these mergers or acquisitions are almost always terrible for consumers. Consolidation of ownership or market share leads to reduced competition by definition, and that reduced competition will usually lead to higher prices. Generally always a bad outcome for consumers, but also for the economy as a whole.

My proposal to address this failing of capitalism is to limit the ability of companies to acquire other companies. Clearly, this could be a major problem for smaller businesses, but they aren’t the source of the problem I described above, so they don’t necessarily need to be included. It can start with listed companies. Why should any publicly listed company be allowed to acquire another company (publicly listed or otherwise)? I can’t think of any good reason why, can you?

It’s the numbers, dummies!

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Why progressives need to blame themselves* for the Trump Victory

Following the election of Donald Trump to the US Presidency last week, a tsunami of analysis has followed, with everyone giving their theory to explain who voted for Trump, who didn’t vote for Hilary and why they did or didn’t. Racism, misogyny, anger at the political elite and neoliberal economics, disillusionment with the system, etc. But before the analysis must come the data.

I’ve previously made the case that politics is a matter of numbers, and those numbers can be confronting.

There are two sets of figures that leapt out at me from the stream of punditry following the US election. And they’re both about voter turnout.

Voter Turnout (in a small way)

The US political system is quite different to ours, and not just in the obvious area of concentration of executive power and the agenda of government that naturally flows from it. Another key feature of the US system is voluntary voting – and our compulsory voting system is one of the causes of the phenomena described in the above linked post.

Here’s the first set of numbers:


Apart from the surprising, and mostly sustained, rise in turnout from 2000 to 2004, the takeaway from this is that the Republican vote is basically unchanged in every election from Bush in ’04 all the way up to and including Trump in ’16. So every pundit making pronouncements about people voting for Trump due to his policies on immigration, neoliberal capitalism, jobs, taxation, foreign policy, etc, are just making it all up. Because there was no net gain to republican votes. Every voter who switched to Trump for those reasons was countered by a voter who switched away, or switched off altogether.

Speaking of switching off altogether, and to get to my point, check out what really made the difference in that graph. The MILLIONS of democrat voters who just stopped voting. Wow. Seriously, just wow! 3.5 million dropped off between Obama ’08 and Obama ’12, then another 5 million from Obama ’12 to Clinton ’16.

So what’s the explanation? Maybe sexism in the US is worse than racism? Maybe Clinton was seen as part of a corrupted system? At this stage, who knows? Certainly none of those pundits trying to explain the result based on Republican vs Democrat policies – this has nothing to do with Trump or Republicans. Democrats lost those 8.5 million votes, and they didn’t lose them to Republicans, they lost them altogether. They need to find out why this happened, and to do it, they need to do some real research and find out from those people who stopped voting. And take action to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Voter Turnout (in a big way)

The US has a population of 320 million. Of these, 230 million are eligible to vote, and approximately 200 million are actually enrolled to vote. 113 million actually voted. 60.3m voted for Trump, 61m for Clinton, 3.25m for Johnson and 1m for Stein. So sure, if every green voter had voted for Hillary then there would be a different president come next January.

But the real problem number is that around 85 million *enrolled* voters didn’t vote.

Why bother trying to change Republican minds, or even Greens for that matter? It’s got to be a lot easier to go find those people who didn’t vote, and convince 1 in 10 of them to commit to come out and vote. After all, that 1-in-10 did come out and vote in 2008. Stop running the campaign in the media, and get back running it at the grassroots level. Get your people to *vote*. Whether or not the polls were right before the election – and just because Trump won, doesn’t mean the polls were wrong – then the effort needs to be focussed on the last mile: getting people out to vote who already want to vote progressive.

Conclusion: Progressives, stop screwing up our future!

The world can no longer afford the do-nothing-or-go-backwards agenda of conservatism. Change in so many parts of society (climate change, technological change, etc) is happening too fast for the population to take it’s traditional “breather” from too much rapid change, in the form of a few years of conservative government. It used to be part of the political cycle, but we simply can’t afford it any more. Especially when it comes to climate change. Of all the dangers that were deeply concerning when the world was (and is still) facing with a Trump presidency, the most serious one is that inaction on climate change will strip us of our last chance to survive as a species.

So please Democrats of the United States, quit the protests, redirect your energy into getting busy and drag your people to the polls for every election to come!

Everything else is secondary.



* Yes, it’s “ourselves”.


Thought for the day.

Usually in response to a call for some sort of action to redress a gender or race imbalance, when someone claims that they use a merit-based system for promotion, we should challenge them to describe this system. A system has a set of processes or procedures that are followed so that the system works, and is not subject to individual biases. So when, say, the former Prime Minister, suggested that the Federal Cabinet, with it’s sole female minister, was selected on merit, then journalists and others need to ask him to describe this merit “system”. What *objective* measures of experience, qualifications, and/or other factors are potential candidates assessed against to determine their rank in relation to their peers, and therefore their selection?

[Spoiler] Claims of a “merit” based system are almost universally a smokescreen for having no system at all and just picking based on “gut feel” or other methods that are subject to unconscious biases.

The Magic Three

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How Australian Elections Work (you’re not going to like this).

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Why Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal/National Coalition will win at least the next two, if not three or four, elections.

Most elections in Australia – Local, State, and Federal – operate on a Preferential Voting system. For a variety of reasons, a significant proportion of the population (>80%) vote for one of the two major parties, Labor and the Liberal/National Coalition. This means that in almost all elections, the vast majority of seats, if not all seats, will elect a Member from one of these two major parties. Minor parties and independents, in some cases getting more than 20% of the vote, will be eliminated when preferences are allocated. I’d prefer to have a system with more proportional representation of minor parties, independents, etc, however arguments about a lack of proportionality and representation are not the focus of this piece, so I’ll leave them aside.

The vast majority of voters will vote the same at every election – their world view, whether stated in two dimensions as Progressive vs Conservative, or in more sophisticated systems, will be the major influence over their choice. So people who feel strongly about one end of the political spectrum or the other, will preferentially vote for the parties that traditionally support those views. If you fall into one of those categories, your vote essentially doesn’t matter.

By logical extension, if a significant proportion of voters don’t change their vote, then due to the nature of the preferential voting system, it is the small proportion of voters who DO change their vote from time to time, who determine the outcome of any election.

To give a simple example, if there is an electorate of 100 voters, and in an election, let’s say they vote like this:

Independent or other party3

Once preferences are allocated, let’s say we end up with 53 Labor and 47 Coalition. Labor wins. Let’s call this Election 1.

Let’s say 9 of these voters who voted for Labor decide to change their vote at the next election: 3 switch to the Liberal Party, 5 to the Palmer United Party, and one to the Greens. One of the independent voters decides to just decides to write “screw you” on the ballot paper this time, adding to those who make a mistake, intentionally mess it up, or just leave it blank.

Palmer United5
Independent or other party2

Once preferences are allocated, you have 53 Coalition vs 47 Labor. Let’s call this Election 2.

So with only 9 voters (or 9%) changing their vote, and ONLY 3 of those voting Liberal, you have a change of government.

It’s when we look at those 3 who changed their vote from Labor to Liberal that it becomes interesting, and slightly depressing. Australia is a first world country. Life is very good compared to most of the rest of the world. Low crime rates, good healthcare, high employment, generally a good outlook on life. We can always debate the fine detail, but things are generally pretty good for the vast majority of the population. There are quite a lot of Australians who don’t care about politics in the slightest, because they don’t see that it has any effect on their own lives. And for the most part, they’re right – if they are middle class, have a reasonably well paying job, and are relatively healthy.

The general orthodoxy in Australian politics is that governments are voted out, rather than in. That is, when those 3 voters decide they’re sick of the current mob running the show, they kick them out and let the other mob have a go. As long as the other mob don’t stuff things up in a major way, they can look forward to running things for quite a while. Until eventually those 3 voters, let’s call them the Magic 3, get sick of the now current mob, and decide it’s time for a change of scenery.

After all, it’s the government that sets the policy agenda, not the opposition. It’s up to them to do what they think will take the country forward, while at the same time not doing anything to piss off the Magic 3. Rock the boat a little too much and you might find yourself out of a job. Just ask Gough Whitlam. Malcolm Fraser did ok, nothing too challenging, so he got to stick around for 8 years. The Hawke/Keating Labor government were in power for 12 years. They didn’t really do anything much to upset the Magic 3, and generally made life better for them through most of the major economic reforms of the late 20th century. The Magic 3 just finally got sick of seeing them in Power. The same thing for the Howard government. But the Rudd/Gillard government? All that infighting and backstabbing was a bit too much, so the Magic 3 turfed them out after two terms. Tony Abbott was on track to achieve the same level of pissing off the Magic 3 after only one term. That’s quite an achievement.

Until Malcolm Turnbull decided that he didn’t really want to spend years in opposition. Because he realised that, after the Magic 3 threw out the baby along with the bathwater, the last thing that Boring Bill Shorten was going to do was piss off the Magic 3. And you can be sure that Malcolm is smart enough to steer along with a steady hand and not rock the boat enough to make the Magic 3 seasick. He’ll have be a steady hand, nothing too controversial, and will hopefully structurally steer the economy towards the industries of the future instead of those of the past (yes, I’m looking at you, Tony), because after all, he’s pretty savvy when it comes to business.

But the point of all of this is that we have set up a system in which 3 people out of 100, who have no interest in politics, or any of what we (those who do care or are interested) think are the issues, decide who forms government. That’s the slightly depressing part.

If those numbers above look familiar, it’s because Election 1 is the 2007 Federal election, and Election 2 is the 2013 Federal election. The preferential voting system distorts the numbers game even further. It doesn’t matter if you get 5%, 10%, 20% of the vote, unless you get a majority of preferences in any one seat, you get no seats. This enormously favours the two largest parties. Election 1 (2007) seats: 83 Labor (55%), 65 Coalition and 2 independents. Election 2 (2013) goes: 90 Coalition (60%) vs 55 Labor, with 1 Green and 1 Palmer United. So with only 3% voters switching from Labor to Liberal, you get 25 seats out of 148 (17%) changing hands.

Updates: 2016 & 2019 Federal Elections

The Liberal Party swapped Malcolm Turnbull for Scott Morrison in 2018. Same same.

My case is looking very, very rested.

Palmer United510030
Independent or other party238445

% = primary vote percentage.